Which lottery teams have playoff shot?

BY foxsports • September 20, 2012

Making the playoffs.

It's what every coach aspires to do, and in the NBA, the chances of it happening are about as likely as Justin Bieber putting out a hit record.

Still, there are a select few each season (14, to be exact) who fail to qualify. And that's not usually such a bad thing, either. The NBA, after all, has a nice reward for its losing teams. It's called the draft lottery, and the more hopeless you are, the greater your odds of winning it.

Anyone who finishes in the top five, maybe the top 10, is viewed as a bad team that stands a good chance for immediate help. Suddenly, they too can sleep at night with postseason dreams.

This offseason was more of the same, and training camps are sure to follow. Coaches and players of lottery teams will talk about the element of surprise, about how they're young and hungry, about how the playoffs aren't out of reach.

That, folks, is just life in the NBA in early October.

But sorting out what's real and what's pure fantasy isn't really all that difficult. In fact, it typically takes all of about a week of the preseason.

Until then, here are some lotto teams that can possibly envision playing in May:

WASHINGTON

Last year, the Wizards entered camp as the Team Most Likely to Suffer a Meltdown. They did not disappoint, with coach Flip Saunders, big men JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche, and shooting guard Nick Young among those banished by July.

Today, speedy young point guard John Wall is joined by all-class veterans such as center Nene, power forward Emeka Okafor and small forward Trevor Ariza, as well as off-guard Bradley Beal, the No. 3 overall pick out of Florida who has drawn comparisons to Dwyane Wade.

As an added bonus, veteran coach Randy Wittman gets to start the season with the above nucleus, shedding the “interim” label that can give any man wobbly knees.

Best of all, it appears no fewer than two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference are up for grabs – with Atlanta and Orlando expected to take at least a minor step back.

The Wizards, as Wittman and the gang will surely tell you on the first day of camp, appear to have the needed tools to take the leap from riffraff to relevant.

PORTLAND

Well, at least they didn't draft a center with a top-10 pick. In Portland, that's gotta be considered a pretty good start.

Instead, the Trail Blazers took point guard Damian Lillard at No. 6 overall, followed by big man Meyers Leonard at No. 11.

All Lillard did during summer league is look like The Next Isiah Thomas, scoring at will and offering some serious flash in the process.

Leonard, meanwhile, looked like he's ready to come in start at center – something that never happened with 2007 No. 1 overall selection Greg Oden and his scrambled eggs for knees.

Today, the Blazers' starting lineup is likely to feature Lillard at point, Leonard at center, the forever-underrated Nicolas Batum at small forward, sniper Wesley Matthews at shooting guard and, oh yeah, All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge at power forward.

That's the roster of a playoff team in the East. In the West, it could be, and that actually says more about the Blazers' overall improvement.

CLEVELAND

A healthy Kyrie Irving alone gives the Cavaliers plenty of hope. He's already become the Chris Paul of the East, a do-it-all point guard who can put up points and keep his teammates feeling good.

But the Cavs' hopes rest on the development of everyone else, and those are some pretty big ifs. After all, we're talking about a squad whose vital players will be second-year power forward Tristan Thompson, rookie center Tyler Zeller, and most of all, rookie shooting guard Dion Waiters, the fourth overall draft pick.

On top of that, the Cavs have a third-year small forward in Alonzo Gee (who actually is more like in his second year, experience-wise) and swingman C.J. Miles, a veteran of seven NBA seasons, who just turned 25 in March.

So the Cavs are incredibly young. Perhaps best of all, coach Byron Scott has already made it clear the Cavs plan to approach the season with another year in the lottery in mind. They're too green to understand how to close out games and they're too new to know how to play together.

Supposedly.

Still, they're likely to enter the season wearing the smirk of a smart-alecky teenager waiting to surprise his parents with a better-than-expected report card.

MILWAUKEE

The Bucks selected power forward John Henson in the lottery (14th overall), but he's hardly the sole reason for their playoff hopes. Instead, they'll be relying on the fact the backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis are getting a full season together, do-it-all forward Ersan Ilyasova re-signed, and demanding coach Scott Skiles returns to the bench.

They just missed the playoffs last year despite another devastating injury to former No. 1 pick Andrew Bogut. Now, having traded Bogut for Ellis, there are fewer worries.

Makes you think the Bucks' ability to take the next step is a logical prediction.

MINNESOTA

Kevin Love said the playoffs are a distinct possibility for the Timberwolves, and he should know. Love is, after all, the man who gets things done for this franchise.

Of course, the big key will be the return of point guard Ricky Rubio from a season-ending knee injury, as well as the continued development of second-year forward Derrick Williams and young center Nikola Pekovic.

And just imagine if veteran addition Brandon Roy has anything left.

With Roy and veteran forward Andrei Kirilenko, the T-Wolves didn't even need a lottery pick last season. If all goes well, they won't have one next summer, either.

BROOKLYN

Another team that failed to make the playoffs that didn't have a lottery pick. Still, the Nets lead the list of teams that failed to qualify for the postseason last year that are almost sure to see it this time around.

That's just what happens when you bring back point guard Deron Williams, center Brook Lopez, small forward Gerald Wallace and power forward Kris Humphries – and add super shooter Joe Johnson to fill out the lineup.

Basically, if the Nets don't make the playoffs this year, something's gone horribly awry. That right there is what every lottery team longs to say.

GOLDEN STATE

With Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and rookie Harrison Barnes (No. 7 overall pick), the Warriors are sure to ride the rocky tide that perimeter shooting brings.

If big men Andrew Bogut and David Lee remain healthy and active enough to gobble up and put back the misses, the Warriors may have something here.

Like all teams entering camp, they'll tell you they do. But unlike the others, you might be able to take it to heart when the Warriors say it.

NEW ORLEANS

Landed the No. 1 overall pick in the draft in Anthony Davis, and borderline-All-Star shooting guard Eric Gordon returns from injury and free agency, respectively. The fact they also added forward Ryan Anderson in the summer gives the Hornets a good starting point.

If it all comes together, some playoff buzz isn't out of the question, either.


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